"Research. I told you this already Laz. Some 20 times. On the way in. This generator's an early model and its been running almost since they introduced it. They don't make them like this any more, and that might be important. Remember that pyrokinetic last week?"
The third joined in. Short next to the others, but much more commanding in her stance. Her attire could be mistaken for casual, simple jeans, hoodie and sneakers, were it not for a holstered knife on one leg, gun opposite. "Oh yeah Laz, the one that set your pants on fire?"
Alright, just as rehearsed. Ghost the lobby and past reception. Stolen uniform makes sure nobody asks about the guy heading for the service elevator. And then ghost the door. Keys only for getting in, controls are free otherwise. And a short ride up. Check time. Four minutes left. Crack the duffel bag. Goggles for stray debris, shrapnel and welding flash. A half dozen flash-in-a-can, kept to the bandolier. Jacket. Flakk Guard. Pads. Earplugs. And finally, the new filter smiling back with grizzled teeth. New face. Close enough to last one. 2 minutes left.
"His name was Arthur, and he apologised. No harm done."
He slid one hand down over the cold of his cybernetics, as if to check. "No. Harm. Done."
"Point is he lived in this building. The Eastside breeze? She lived here. There are a couple of reports of other kinetic sightings round here and Paul and I thought we might be able to see if there's a connection. Two kinetics in a block radius is practically unheard of. And this is a Model L2590-B localised Laaka distribution storage tank and battery. Powers the whole building, with enough left over for a "Car" like ours to recharge. Might be kicking out something else. Seems to be a little off though?"
"See, when you don't start with an L2 59 tank I don't tune out."
The elevator doors dinged open.
"Hello assorted Misfits and Freaks."
A grotesque thing of an ensemble, with a few armoured pads wrapped around an off-colour janitor's uniform. A sleeve was rolled up about one hand, the other was wrapped in blue latex. Most jarringly his face was masked by a set of darkened goggles and an air filter with a painted zigzag smile.
Laz was the first to react, stretching his arms out and pulling a pool of rivets, nuts and bolts to float about his fingertips. "He's armed."
A belt of grenades slung over one shoulder, behind folded arms. It was hard to read his face. But he was staring at Sparrow, who in her turn was just as unthreatening in posture. Laz had seen that look on her before. Not dangerous right now, but if this got heated...
"No cause for immediate alarm. Or alarm at all for the rest of you. I'm just here for a word with the ganger."
Aaron finished putting down his spanner, and unbuckled his holster. "I'm gonna need you to speak up, because I don't think I heard you right."
Laz could half remember them describing somebody like this. Some idiot out for Sparrow's head. "Didn't we kick your ass already?"
"Define we. You weren't there, he couldn't aim to save his friend's life, and she did all the work. Hello little Sparrow. "You know you can't really use my actual name as an insult. Its not embarassing, Martyn." The masked figure tensed. "How did you?" She smiled. It was worth it to do the research. It wasn't pleasant to dig back through bygones, but it was a quick study. "You called yourself the Haunter of Halingehn, and the first story you find when you go looking is a dead Endlyrian called Martyn Muller. First hint you might not be gone. Second was that I'm not that lucky. Most importantly though... I killed your brother. Matthew Muller was listed on the casualties the day of..." She really didn’t want to have to hear his name again. She sighed. "President Dalen's assassination. I spent months paying for what I did. Even being here? It’s a reminder. My family could barely look at me, and you think that killing me is worse? It's been a long time Martyn. What have you done since? Played dress up. I've been atoning." Aaron smiled, he'd told her to use that one. "Helping people like me, like you, that could really cause some damage if they didn't get that help. It's what the KNIGHTs are for."
"The KNIGHTs, do they have a slot for an Endlyrian that can go anywhere? Ah, I'm sure I'd be the first to know if it was open."
Pointing at Paul and Aaron in turn, his left hand rigid where the right seemed to twitch at his side.
"How much, do you know this murderess?"
Martyn Muller was scowling beneath his mask. A formality. Something to put a little wall between them. Not enough. His speech devolved into sing song.
"My little path of violence is NOTHING to the trail you left on your way to see the President. A dozen guards cut to ribbons, and a smear on the wall to mark the last attempt to peacefully quell the insurrection that claimed the lives of my countrymen."
"My brother, detached from his unit to serve as bodyguard to your elected leader. It took me months just to find out what happened to him you know. Rumours are good and all but no army is going to let it slip that a 16 year old girl tore apart a room full of trained guards. President Dalen at least got off light compared to the rest of them."
"I grew up watching men like him tear my home apart."
"Good thing you're still growing."
Sparrow watched as his hand went for a grenade. She could have a bead on his head within seconds. Not much use to shoot though. A few screws raced from where they floated in Laz's hand and passed through him. Damn near untouchable. No effort to throw it. Just dropped it at his feet, eyes still locked with Sparrow. Aaron was still drawing. Sparrow teleported out. Flashbang, that distance, need to still see. Laz focused, pushed out at the thin canister, putting a few more precious feet between him and the burst of light and noise. Aaron farther away, might have turned away. No luck for Lazarus. She watched the aftermath from the next rooftop. And when she could see their attacker relax, she was standing in front of him just as suddenly knife pressed gently into his stomach and a gun aimed for his head.
"You alright Laz?" He squinted his eyes and shouted back. "WHAT?"
The masked madman held still. "Oh come on, as if I'd try to kill your friends. It just noise and light. Your safety's on by the way." She said nothing. "Worth a try." The knife leaned into his back. "Not an inch. The second you do anything?" His "Insubstantiality" as Paul called it couldn't be immediate. Probably a tell. But with a weapon pushing against him she could feel it if the resistance gave. Was he faster than her draw? Unlikely.
"I get the picture."
"So we're going to stand here, and wait until I figure out what to do with you."
He stood limply. Pressure change on the knife and then,
"Have you ever done it since?"
Give no response.
"I mean, I've killed a lot but-" It was a struggle to keep her finger still. So much instinct rebelled against her. No. This one wasn't going to end in violence if it didn't have to. It was what this idiot wanted. To push her.
"Last guy I was in a fight with," He twisted sharply to the left, and a bullet punched through his head. She blinked. Too slow to get out the way. She turned back to Laz as he dropped limply to the floor. "You ok there?" He was dusting himself off, trying to look in her direction but just off. "Yeah, don't shout."